Comment on all self-styled St John Orders

FACT FILE

The following links provide information mostly concerning the self-styled Orders. However such web sites need a timely warning.

For those who are truly Christian, one great sadness is the observed hypercritical treatment toward self-styled Orders, which appears, only to pay lip service to the teachings of our Lord, despite the first part of the twin motto of the Order of St John, "Pro Fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum" (for the faith). For example, to seek to belittle other societies which may be fraternal organisations (as opposed to chivalric organisation of ancient foundation), whose members are fellow Christians, is not within the spirit of our Lord's teachings, and the teachings of St Paul. If (so-called) Christians representing an organisation of ancient foundation hollow out the content of the faith, then surely any claim to that ancient Christian heritage has gone?

This matter of the Christian basis of the Order touches upon the complex issue of legitimacy. Legitimacy, in the context of discussion on the various Orders of St John can mean one, or more of four definitions; first, the bona-fides of a group; second, that a provable link can be made to the Order of St John preceding the Order's ejection from Malta in 1798; third, evidence that the organisation acts within the hospitaller tradition, namely that it is a Christian, and humanitarian organisation; fourth, the acceptance by the State, or the international community of nations, as a recognised Order of Chivalry. It is easy to forget the distinctions of meaning, and to confuse the issues. When people write, or talk about an Order's legitimacy - what do they mean?

In tracing the historic tradition of the Order of St John, in all its forms and to examine the transmission of that tradition from generation to generation, lineal descent is central to this evaluation. In this context 'tradition' seems a safer word to use, than 'legitimacy'. There is a simple reason for this. Even where it is clear, that the discussion on legitimacy is about lineal descent from the undivided Order, that discussion must be prefaced with the warning that it is a very complex subject. Many of the critics of the self styled Orders use legalistic formulæ, based on mediæval or Roman Canon Law, or State Protocols from which to judge those Orders. The assumption, of course, is that an elaborate code of Franco-Latin feudal law is universally applicable. Despite the attempts to act as this were true, it can be noted that as the monolithic culture in which the historic Order of St John began its life no longer exists, there may not be any final Court of Appeal!

One of the important features of any St John Order, ought to be a humanitarian vocation. Even though some of the groups under review do not have an historical pedigree, what is not lacking  in a good number of then is evidence of humanitarian endeavours, beyond the scope of this web site to list. Those in desperate need and receiving such aid, will not be worried about the issues of technical legitimacy. It is in this area of humanitarian endeavours that all those organisation advancing such, must be commended. The world needs more people in the service of others not less. However historical claims to have any value need to be true, and these web pages on the self-styled Orders seek to examine and question the historic claims made, and to highlight those claims which cannot stand up to academic scrutiny.

The polemic in some of the web sites dealing with the histories of the self-styled Orders, on the links below, need to be filtered out, as does the appeal to Franco-Latin feudal laws. However what is useful are the historic details concerning the various self-styled Orders, some of which are not preserved, or advertised by the "Orders" themselves, a few of which are happy to re-write their histories, not so much by invented facts, but by leaving out essential details which are not convenient to be included and which would establish their true pedigree! It can be noted that some websites run by these Orders disappear, only to re-emerge under another domain name, with a new historical pedigree!

The Self-Styled Orders of St John by Guy Stair Sainty  
The Proliferation of Russian and "Orders" of St John by James J. Algrant 
Corpo della Nobiltà Italiana - list of Self-styled Orders 
List of Self-styled Orders as issued by SMOM 
Letter to SMOM seeking assistance in relation to 'false' St John Orders  
List of "Maltese Fakes" - A copy site of Guy Sainty's work  
List of OSJ Grand Masters  

To the Self-Styled Order Page.
To the OSJ Research Web Page.